Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Not So Little Babies

Sometimes I feel like our nations obsession with weight and body mass indexes has gotten a bit out of hand.  Or maybe it's just dramatically skewed.  

Case in point.  Yesterday the girls had to have some lab work done.  It involved a iron test and a lead test, height and weight.  After the height and weight tests were completed, I was informed that both the girls were in danger of obesity (and one nurse suggested that Mae was autistic since she cried when they drew blood and wasn't thrilled about a stranger manhandling her...).  You see, they're in the 95th percentile for height and the 95th percentile for weight and apparently the little chart says that they're body masses are too high when they compare these two measurements.  

We've gone over this before, at appointments since Sadie was born.  The thing is, our kids are big.  They're big in utero (and no, I've never had gestational diabetes).  They're big when they're born.  And so far, they tend to be bigger than their peers all around.  Maybe it's because there dad looks like this:

His tall and muscular genes apparently trump my shirmpy jeans.  Our children aren't willowy and will likely never hear the word "waif" describing their body types.    

Yet the world of statistics doesn't seem to understand that.  It doesn't take into account that both of our kids are pretty muscular already, or that the thing about Mae that looks giant when she's around other two year olds are her shoulders.  

"You can see the muscles in her tummy and her ribs!" I said when the "danger" of Mae's weight was brought up yesterday.  "And she hasn't gained a single pound in 12 months!" (that part of the weigh in did surprise me.  She's certainly thinning out!).  

Anyways... I couldn't help but wonder how many mothers are given serious complexes about the health of their child using these methods of determining a healthy weight.  Because if Mae is "borderline" and Sadie is "in danger of" obesity than there's something wrong with the scale.  Two year olds aren't supposed to have super model-esque figures.  

It's just a little bit odd to me...

And now, some examples of what the "danger zone" for being overweight apparently looks like:

But I'm sure that government regulations about sizes of drinks are a great idea... I mean, clearly the government knows when we're in "danger" and can save of from making those bad dietary decisions ourselves by telling us, "no, that's just too much sugar for you."  I mean, the charts do such a great job identifying "obesity."  Eyeroll.


  1. I have an extremely small bone structure and fluctuate between underweight and a fraction of a BMI point away from underweight, so I feel you. (My brother, at his three week checkup, was 95% for height and 5% for weight.)

    BMI works somewhat well for people who have are in the middle of the bone structure spectrum. It doesn't work well for people like me or your kids, who are built larger or smaller, and it really doesn't work for children at all, so I'm not sure why they were calculating that for your kids...95% for both height and weight sounds perfectly proportional to me!

  2. That's annoying. My son has consistently been in the 75th (or higher) for his height, and on his second birthday he finally made it onto the charts with his weight being in the 5th percentile. I'm glad we have a realistic doctor who looks at those numbers, looks at my husband (who is 6 foot and weighs less than I do no matter how much he eats and how much I diet...and I'm not overweight!) and says "everything looks great!" rather than "He's underweight! You need to give him formula because clearly he's not getting enough to eat!"

  3. Autism is the new ADHD. (Special educators and therapists who have been around a couple of decades will understand this.) I kid you not, just about *every* parent who brings a child to me for speech-language assessment is pretty sure, or at least strongly suspects, that his/her child has autism. Of course, autism is a legitimate diagnosis, no doubt about it, but every child on your block does not, in fact, have it! Heavens to Betsy. I'm waiting for the next "new" diagnostic wave...should be within the next decade or so...

  4. As one who needed to lose, oh, about 50 pounds even before getting pregnant, I appreciate the concern that carrying too much excess weight is bad for the body (and does make it harder to keep up with 4 little kids). However, I would much rather the government pass laws to ensure safe, non-genetically altered, non-chemicalized foods to ensure people are being properly nourished than trying to mandate what sized soda I drink.

    Honestly I think a fair amount of the actual weight increase in this nation stems much more from this government advocated idea that we should eat less meat and more carbs, less healthy fat and more chemicals, etc. I'm not anti-carb per se, but the government butting its nose into how Americans eat doesn't seem to have done this country any good.

    Despite the fact both my husband and I do need to lose weight, we have 4 girls who are very active and very healthy. So when the pediatrician (who I really like despite) tried to advocate switching them to fat free milk, I nicely smiled and ignored said advice. I appreciate the intention, but children have done very well with healthy fats for millennia and I'm not about to tinker with that now. Just because it is stamped by a medical authority, doesn't make it right or wise.

    Your girls look beautiful and healthy to me. Keep up the good job, mom! :)

  5. Sadie seems like she's always been tall from photos on your blog she's always looked older than her age

  6. That happened to Susi when she was in the 85th percentile. And she is just big like Sadie, and healthy. So I just ignored said advice and I know she is not obese or even borderline.

  7. We always got grief at the doctor's when Ella was a baby. She's tall and thin. It's like my husband says, some one has to be at the top end and at the bottom end to make an 'average'.

  8. I have the opposite problem - my kids are teeny tiny (thin and long). My daughter is below the fifth percentile. I've had many doctors say I'm not feeding them enough and that they need supplementation. My kids are just thin and so is their father.

    The charts are stupid.

  9. When I first took my then two girls to our doctor she did raise an eyebrow about our girls who were in the 85th percentile for the height/weight thing. Then I sweetly pointed out that I was 5 ft 10in and my husband is 6ft 2in and we are quite broad in the shoulder and hips. She just nodded her head and said, "That explains that." Never had a bit of trouble with her or the nurses when our next two kids keep hitting the 90th and 85th percentile respectively.

  10. Michelle @ Liturgical Time - I'm totally with you on that.

    I was under weight most of my young life and then I hit puberty and became tall with hips, then I became an adult I started gaining weight, now I'm probably obese but I also have a hormonal imbalance so who knows.

    I think your kids are just fine. MD's these days don't have common since.

  11. Hmm. My youngst dd (adopted from Haiti so black)was noted to be in the 95th percentile for weight (but they don't take into account the fact that black children have denser bones) At 9; she's back in the 50th without dieting.
    Older dd was actually dx'd with Autism at age 4. She did have definite speech delay and some social stuff but for a lifetime dx; she's now a high school visual art student who writes creative stories and is very social (especially at 10pm!LOL) All her dx did was force us into school meetings where we had to listen to "children with her dx are't usually able to (fill in the blanks; whatever she had just accomplished) So that was pretty useless. And as for all the "services" we were supposed to get; we pretty much got nothing. And in the US; doesn't Autism dx count as a pre exisiting med condition?

  12. Speaking as someone with personal experience in child psychology (namely spending the better part of my various summer vacations travelling from one "child"-specializing psychologist or psychiatrist to the next), I find it hard to imagine that anything apart from the most severe cases of autism could be diagnosed reliably in children as young as Mae Bae, particularly given the fact that whoever said it was, from what I can gather from the story, a generalist MD at best and more likely a nurse at worst. The child brain is remarkably plastic and that plasticity seems to even cause disorders of the brain to come and go as they please.

    While childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States (and, sadly, in Canada as well), being in the 95th percentile for both height and weight throws off BMI calculations - especially when the only inputs (seemingly) are height and weight. The BMI scale is known to be inaccurate when calculated in this way, and even to this day I still register as being on the edge of an unhealthily low weight despite a slowly developing beer-gut and a diet that, even when lacking processed foods, would make a Frenchman reconsider his dietary priorities.

    I have a feeling that Paul being a mountain of a man (how old is that horse he's leading? He seems impossibly tall from my limited experience with horses) has more to do with your children's size than any facet of your family's eating habits.

    AS far as the government regulations about the size of drinks, well... as much as I'd like to see the fast-food industry take a deep knee bend before the altar of human health, I have a feeling it's more likely that such things would just mask the real truth of the mater - soda is just bad for you, as generally sold in mass-produced shops. Sure, I like soda. Drink more of it than is healthy, and I have the dental expense records to show it.

    I forget who said it, but Moderation is the key to everything, including moderation. Your kids are fine; you're doing great.

  13. Addendum: I also agree with Katherine and with Michelle - childhood mental illness (especially mild-end autism spectrum disorders, these days) are massively overdiagnosed. I had four different ones before we finally nailed down what I actually had.

    AS for what Katherine said - absolutely. There are some GMOs I don't mind eating (dwarf wheat springs to mind), but by and large I prefer to keep that crap out of my diet. My one weakness, soda, can at least be mitigated by choosing one of the few brands that still uses actual sugar.

    Or making my own. Hmm... that'd make a good post. I better write that down.

  14. Hi, I follow your blog but barely comment. However, I just had to comment on this one. I have 4 boys and one girl, and all but one of my children were close to the 100% statistics in height and weight until they were about 3 and started slimming down (really just growing pickier). I just brought my baby boy in last week and he's in the 98% for height, weight and head circumference. The doctor said, well he's a big boy but he's big in every way, so not to worry. I love my doctor. I think the problems would lie in children who are in the highest percentiles for weight but not height.
    The other things I wanted to say is that everyone would look at my big husky boys and compliment them on how big and strong they were. When my daughter was the same size, I would get all sorts of comments on how she was chubby and a big girl (said with a negative tone). What the heck? It was so obvious to me how rude people are about female bodies and I can see why girls are developing eating disorders left and right.

  15. They are perfect and adorable. Sadie looks to me to have really stretched out, and Mae is simply a normal 2 year old. Such baloney!


  16. I played soccer all through school, which my doctor failed to take that into account. Also the fact that mucle weighs more than fat. I am 5'1 but weigh enough than it puts me as slightly obese. I can not help that I have well developed leg muscles from soccer.

    My doctor told my mom that by the time I was in my twenties I would be obese; I am not thankfully my doctor now takes into account that you can not just go by height and weight on the BMI chart you have to look at all factors. Does the kid play sports? What do the parents look like? Are they tall?

    Cam, you are doing great as a mom, Mae and Sadie from the looks of it are just going to take after their dad. I think childern's doctors just love to cause parents to worry.

  17. Where does this total lack of common sense come from? You'd think it would be obvious that kids who are 95th for height AND weight aren't obese. They're just bigger than average kids!

  18. I know what you mean, my baby had a check up at 4 mo and I was shocked to see they even documented her BMI. The paperwork including guiding information about diet and exercise. What a joke. My baby is the most petite thing I ever saw and your girls are adorable and most certainly not overweight. Whats interesting is I notice my son (6 yo)will bulk up and then shoot right up again looking like a tall slim kid. Chill out people! I second the above comment about giving Americans equal access to non-gmo real food!

  19. Those charts are crazy. I'm considered obese, but no one would ever suspect that. Part of the problem is that I am, ummmmmm well-endowed. They certainly add a good deal of weight to my overall weight. I only have a bit of a belly with hardly any fat anywhere else, and I'm obese? Whatever. Ignore them.

  20. Don't get me started. I have acquaintances in the medical profession who are also very educated about nutrition, etc. They all hate the charts. I don't have time to type up different "fun" trips to the pediatricians and the uneducated comments from nurses, etc. My neighbor was a body builder who the nurse at the army hospital insisted was obese. This neighbor had a tiny BMI, if you did the calipers or put her in the pool. Just going by her height and weight she was obese and the nurse insisted she watch her food. Yes, having a big.. uh, chest skews things. My younger daughter gets her petiteness from her dad's side. He had to GAIN weight to join the army. His mom is about 4'11" and weighs about 90 pounds. These people can't put on weight. I got an earful from a well-meaning nurse (who then let me have it for being mostly vegetarian) who then turned around and was congratulating a mommy with a very, very chubby toddler who came in with soda in a bottle. Thank you, Cammie, for keeping your kids active and raising them on stuff other than fast food and soda. Wish more mommies were like you. Have a wonderful week with your beautiful family. Thank you for sharing your journey and your wisdom with us. It means more than you know.

  21. Those charts are just stupid and the doctors who rely on them need to go back to school and learn a bit more about the variation in the human body.

    I have a child who worried our physician. The kid is tiny which runs in our family. The pediatrician just kept worrying and you could hear her muttering under her breath that she was small but very strong and active and clearly engaging with the world-- even as a newborn.

    Over-reliance on charts and averages leads to under and over diagnosis of many problems.

    I complained of symptoms when I was thin, and was told I just needed to exercise (and I DID tell the doctor I was running a mile every day and it wasn't getting easier)-- and eventually the symptoms were so bad I had to stop exercising and I gained some weight, and the doctors STILL said it was being out of condition and if I would lose the weight and exercise the symptoms would go away-- but the symptoms came first.... so my attitude is likely colored by how many years it took to get any sort of help.

    As for having diagnosis of things like Aspergers, ADD or other learning disorders, well, they TALK a lot about helping kids, and take lots of tax dollars for the kids having special needs, but the schools rarely DO anything for the kids in MY personal experience. The system is flawed; it handicaps good teachers, disrespects parental input, and fails the kids.

    Ignore the "experts" and keep doing what you do: healthy diet and plenty of exercise.


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